Tips to Help Introverts Network and Advance Their Legal Careers

I know I need to make more professional contacts but dread in-person networking events. Any tips on how I can overcome my shyness and grow my network?

Legal professionals realize networking is an important part of finding job opportunities and furthering legal careers. At the same time, it can be almost painful for introverts to meet new people in social situations and carry on conversations with them. One well-known introvert, comedian Steve Martin, remarked, “Introductions are hard to come by when your natural state is shyness.”

The first step to overcoming an aversion to networking is something you’ve already done: realize that growing your professional network is something a legal assistant must do to have a successful job search and career. Here’s some advice to help you overcome your shyness so you can network productively and build new relationships:

  1. Put it in Perspective
    At its heart, networking is just conversation — not a root canal. Once you realize that, you can start to view your fellow networkers as potential colleagues and friends who, like you, are building their legal careers. Many of them may be just as nervous about meeting strangers as you are. Also, remember your strength: Many introverts are good at listening, which is a big part of communication.

  2. Practice Makes Perfect
    Since being outgoing is not your natural state, you should rehearse what you’ll say before in-person networking events. Practice introducing yourself and asking interesting questions. Think of yourself as an actor who needs to deliver lines as naturally as possible. It may help to rehearse in front of a mirror. Also, consider enlisting a trusted colleague or friend to role-play networking with you and provide feedback.

  3. Seek out Resources
    You’re not the first shy person who has sought guidance on how to become more outgoing. There are books, articles and blogs you can read on how to overcome shyness and network effectively. There are also YouTube videos and websites on networking for introverts. And ask your friends and colleagues for advice, especially if they’re shy like you but have overcome some of their anxiety about taking the initiative to meet new people.

  4. Meet Online Before Meeting In-Person
    Networking online is a great way to broaden your professional network on your own time, and at your own pace. Thanks to general business networking websites like LinkedIn, and legal-specific ones like Martindale, you can research potential business contacts and make introductions virtually. And when you actually decide to meet new contacts in person, you will have already skipped over the awkward phase and can get right down to deepening your professional relationships.  

  5. Just Do It
    All that preparation will be for naught if you don’t get out there and socialize eventually. Decide that you’ll attend a certain number of networking and professional events each quarter, and then just do it. No need to limit yourself to functions just for those in legal careers. You may feel shy in a crowd of strangers, but take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone: There are very likely other introverts at the event who dread networking as much as you. See if you can find them and strike up a conversation; they’ll thank you for taking the initiative. To help you feel more confident, you may want to attend a networking event with a few colleagues. But since the point of networking is to make new relationships, don’t just hang out with the people you came with.

Being shy may be a hurdle to growing your network, but it’s definitely not insurmountable. Whether you’re a legal assistant or a senior partner, meeting new people and cultivating professional relationships are a necessary and important part of the profession. With enough determination, practice and courage, introverts can grow their network — and get ahead in their legal careers.